Author: Henning Mankell
Review: I just started watching the latest installment of 24 on Netflix, and as always I am amazed on how much story they get out of one simple premise. Misinformed people performing actions they think are for the best, when in reality they cause great damage. It is incredible how much harm an ignorant person can do when they think they are right. And even when they are caught, they often have too much pride to admit their mistake and rectify what they have wrought.
In Daniel a well meaning Swede travels down to Africa to be a scientist. He is convinced that by traveling into the heart of the continent he will find a new, undiscovered creature and forever be famous back in the real world. Touring the country he never embraces what is Africa, rather he is the Ugly Swede, forever seeing himself as superior in every way to all he sees. Of course by having the end in mind he never sees the right here and now, thus he misses the true opportunities of growth.
Frustrated and ready to give up he finds a lost boy, an orphan who will not talk. Instead of seeing what the boy, Daniel, really needs he decides arbitrarily what will be best and enforces it. Rip from his home he is deposited in a strange place with strange customs. All the while his heart pines from home.
Not wanting to ruin the ending, this is a story of how every choice we make can really affect the world around us. What is right for me may not be right for you. It is surprising how many of us have a hard time accepting that simple truth. Daniel opens up that problem and lays bare how we need to listen more than talk.
Publisher: The New Press
Copyright: 2000 (Translated 2010)
Quick Review: 4 out of 5 stars
Why I Read It: I enjoy Mankell's mysteries so much I am willing to give his non-genre fiction a try.
Where I Obtained the Book: Off the new shelf at my local library.
Synopsis: In the 1870s, Hans Bengler arrives in Cape Town from Småland, Sweden, driven by a singular desire: to discover an insect no one has seen before and name it after himself. But then he impulsively adopts a young San orphan, a boy he christens Daniel and brings with him back to Sweden - a quite different specimen than he first contemplated. Daniel is told to call Bengler "Father," taught to knock on doors and bow, and continually struggles to understand this strange new land of mud and snow that surrounds and seemingly entraps him. At the same time, he is haunted by visions of his murdered parents calling him home to Africa. Knowing that the only way home is by sea, he decides he must learn to walk on water if he is ever to reclaim his true place in the world.
Evocative and sometimes brutal, the novel takes Daniel through a series of tragedies and betrayals that culminate in a shocking act. Mankell tells this indelible story with a ruthless elegance all his own.
Author Biography: Henning Mankell is an internationally known Swedish crime writer, children's author and playwright. He is best known for his literary character Kurt Wallander.
Mankell splits his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He is married to Eva Bergman, Swedish director and daughter of Ingmar Bergman.